Match Preview & Confirmed XI: United vs Norwich

United: De Gea; Smalling, Vidic, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Anderson, Carrick, Kagawa; Rooney, Van Persie.

Subs: Lindegaard, Rafael, Cleverley, Nani, Young, Welbeck, Hernandez.

Barclays Premier League
Saturday 2nd March 2013
Old Trafford
Kick Off 3.00 pm

Referee: N. Swarbrick. G11 Y38 R0
Assistants: S. Long, A. Halliday
Fourth Official: C. Foy

League Form last 5 matches
United: WWWWD
Norwich: WDDDL

All Competitive matches against Norwich: Played 61, W32, D13, L16, F98, A60.

Norwich dealt the heaviest defeat to United in September 1979 in the 3rd round of the League Cup during season 1979/80, beating United 4-1 at Carrow Road. United’s team sheet on the day was: Bailey, Nicholl, Albiston, McILroy, McQueen, Buchan, Grimes, Wilkins, Coppell, Macari, Thomas. Substitute, Andy Ritchie. The United goalscorer was Sammy McILroy.

United in season 79/80 won no silverware, Norwich as described eliminating us from the then League Cup, Tottenham Hotspur knocking United out of the FA Cup 1-0 in a replay Third Round tie of the competition at home. Liverpool winning League Division One with 60 points, two points ahead of United in second place in the league. Norwich were in 12th place recording 40 points that season. However Norwich were relegated the following campaign along with Leicester City and Crystal Palace, United sealing Norwich’s fate on the final day of the season 1980/81 beating the Canaries 1 – 0 at Old Trafford. Norwich bounced back into the First Division the following season.

Last Time Out against Norwich, Saturday 17th of November 2012: Norwich City 1 Manchester United 0 – Anthony Pilkington with the only goal. The excellent David de Gea was absent from the line-up, having a tooth extraction. The able Sam Johnstone was on the bench as Anders Lindegaard’s unused deputy for the match. United’s dynamo Wayne Rooney was also unavailable for the visit to Norwich suffering with tonsillitis, Javier Hernandez and the flying Dutchman were United’s spear – head arsenal in attack back in November. Sadly leaving their accurate shooting boots on the team coach while Norwich plugged the midfield and utilized the width in their side to cause United many problems on our flanks. Much maligned Ashley Young was United’s Man of the Match while the England International was unfortunate not to register a goal he displayed some of his early season form in his first season at the club, with crisp accurate passing and cutting crosses into the key danger areas of Norwich’s 18 – yard box. The come – back – kings did not have the fuel on the day to retrieve the 60th minute strike by Pilkington from Javier Garrido’s telling cross.

Norwich’s ability to make telling delivery into the box continues from last season, when they had the highest success rate for crosses 25%, the best in the Premiership.

Manchester City led the league table after this 12th game was completed with 28 points on the board after thrashing Aston Villa 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium. United were in second place on 27 points. Norwich after a confident start were positioned in a credible 13th spot with 14 points accrued at that stage.

United met Norwich when they were on a club record 10 league game unbeaten sequence prior to Christmas, being brought to an abrupt halt with a 2 -1 defeat at the Hawthorns against West Bromwich Albion. Winning games breeds confidence as we know at United, and Norwich were in bristling form on the day to temporarily dislodge the team from top spot in the table.

Sir Alex had this to say after the defeat in Norfolk, “We have to give credit to Norwich they got plenty of men behind the ball and closed down spaces, and we just couldn’t get our crosses in.”

Statistics Last Time Out against Norwich.
Possession: United 51% Norwich 49%.
Shots: United 12 Norwich 10
Shots on target: United 9 Norwich 5
Corners: United 12 Norwich 0

Top Goal Scorers all competitions.
United: Van Persie 23, Hernandez 15, Rooney 13.
Norwich: Holt 5, Snodgrass 5, Pilkington 4.

United: Rooney 7, Van Persie 7, Evra 5.
Norwich: Snodgrass 4, Pilkington 3, Garrido 2.

Injured absent
United: Rooney who will possibly miss out today after suffering a sinus problem last week, missing 4 days training. United’s No10 having appeared for less than 30 minutes since the enthralling draw in Madrid in the second week of February.

Phil Jones will not be available for todays match nursing an ankle knock incurred during the FA Cup match against Reading. The boss explained at his weekly press conference at Carrington on Friday “He’s got a fight on his hands to be ready for Tuesday (Madrid) but we’ll give him every chance. He won’t be available for tomorrow (Norwich).”

Darren Fletcher sadly still out with illness, Paul Scholes knee injury will also not appear.

Out John Ruddy.
Doubtful: Tetley and Surman, both missed Norwich’s win against Everton, but may be considered by Hughton today.

What the managers had to say before todays match

With four home matches on the trot starting this afternoon against Norwich, maintains the clubs interest desire to win and challenge for three big prizes. Poor weather pre Christmas fouled the Old Trafford playing surface, but with substantial dedicated work by United’s loyal ground-staff they have rectified the sub – standard playing surface. The boss told us fans “We’re hopeful that we can take full advantage of this spell of home games, but I must say that the one thing that is going to help us is that the pitch has improved a tremendous amount. Against Reading it was much better. It was not as good as the start of the season obviously, but it is getting there. With a further 10 days between Reading and todays match, I expect it to be back to normal.”

While the boss is maintaining the clubs obvious desire to create history as we did in 1999 with a magnificent treble haul of cups. Sir Alex ensures all the players remained focused to play their part if and when they are called to perform, advising that the football club are on the verge “of something big” in the managers words.

Chelsea visit Old Trafford 8 days after todays match, the huge highly anticipated European heavyweight clash against Real, sandwiched in between on the mouthwatering menu of football United have to look forward to.

Can it get any better for us United fans it could just possibly turn out to be a historic season that we will never ever forget, developing before our very eyes. Sir Alex further referred back to 1999, “I left Paul Scholes out of the quarter-final against Inter Milan yet he was the one who scored the goal that got us through. I left him out of the semi-final because I couldn’t risk him and Roy Keane together as they both were on yellow cards. He accepted it graciously, came on, got booked and missed the final anyway. What did he do? He didn’t let it affect him. He went on to become one of the greatest players this club has ever had. The players sense it could be a big year for them. But at this club, in this situation, anything can happen on the run – in. Players can all of a sudden find themselves playing in a final or an important league game because that is the kind of squad I have. It’s very difficult to rotate the squad at the moment. They all wanted to play against Real Madrid and there were a lot of disappointed players. That was fantastic. It is a measure of their own confidence in themselves.” The boss was speaking with MUTV.

Chris Hughton had this to say before todays match: “Last Saturday (Everton) was a big win for us against an excellent side. To go into a game at Old Trafford after a defeat makes it a bit harder. There’s been a good feel in the camp this week. United have lost only one game at home this season, so the magnitude of the task is still there, but we are certainly better going into it for the result of last weekend. The win over United (1-0) on November 17th was one of our best performances this season. For us to repeat that at Old Trafford would take a huge effort but we’re ready. It is a massive game they have on Tuesday. I think it will affect the line – up but I don’t think it will affect the quality of the line-up,” Hughton mused. “Irrespective of the team they put out, we know it is going to be one of high quality. At this moment, they are the team who have the best quality squad in the division, there is no doubt about that. There is nobody who manoeuvres his squad any better than Sir Alex.

“Any win at Old Trafford would have to see us play extremely well and for United to have one of their rare off – days but you have to go into every game hoping the work you have done can come right and you can get that result. There will be no fear from our players, we will want to go there and play. However, it is very difficult to go to Old Trafford with an open formation. If you are going to go there and take them on at what they do very well, then generally there is only one outcome.

“Ultimately, you want to get a result and a draw at Old Trafford is a very good result but it is also about a performance.” Chris Hughton was speaking with Sky Sports.

Match Facts
Chris Hughton is in his inaugural season with Norwich City after a short but profitable period with Birmingham City preceded by his bizarre termination at Newcastle United. Hughton is a steady manager if not spectacular which is likely suited to Norwich to stabilize and consolidate the football club.

Norwich currently occupy 12th place in the league table after a further confidence building 2 – 1 win, courtesy of Grant Holt’s last minute strike against high flying 6th placed Everton (faltering for a Champions League spot) stopping the Canaries run of 10 games without a win. Confidence will be high after that low spell and United should be on their guard.

The like-able plausible Hughton had a magnificent record of results while at Newcastle United with a win % close to 60%. He has not yet in the short time at Norwich replicated the previous performance on Tyneside, with wins to date 33%, draws 33%, and losses 33% with his new charges.

Norwich Citys most expensive signing in the clubs history is summer past recruit Sebastien Bassong costing 4.00 million pounds, Bassong hired from Spurs via a loan – spell at Wolves. To further display the comparative success of Norwich they have a negative net spend in the previous 10 years transfer activity of minus 7.00 million pounds. To put this into some perspective how fantastically well the Canaries have shrewdly managed their finances to get to where they are today. Chelsea have invested in the comparable 10 year period to 2013 almost 600 millon pounds, net. Manchester City spending net, slightly below 500 million pounds in 10 years. United’s net spend marginally over 200 million pounds in the 10 years prior to 2013 – inclusive.

Grant Holt committed the most fouls of any Premiership player last season, 89. Taking up the reigns of Bolton Wanderers attacker Kevin Davies with the still all time record in one season in the Premiership of 121 fouls for the Trotters hit-man. Holt is currently 2nd in the dirtiest player league committing 60 fouls and 3 yellow cards this season, Bradley Johnson also features in the top – 20 dirtiest players, with 48 fouls and 6 yellow cards. These stats simply display that Norwich have no soft under belly and will not be out muscled in a physical contest. Heading the dirtiest player league unsurprisingly is Everton’s Marouane Fellani topping the table with 62 fouls and 6 yellow cards.

While Holt could be described as brusque he is dangerous also in front of goal, Norwichs top goal scorer last season as well as this to date, netting on 15 occasions last term. Holt was supported in the striking department with Morrison on 9 goals, Pilkington 8, and Hoolahan with 6 conversions. Grant Holt struck against all top eight sides last season, a watchful eye is paramount on the possible England International player of the future. Norwich in the summer ensured Holt was tied up in rewarding him a contact for 3 years, warding off any predators in buying him at a knock-down price.

Norwich City last season reached the 5th round of the FA Cup and exited the ‘League Cup’ in the second round of the tournament. This season they are out of both these competitions at this point in their campaign. Further allowing the Norfolk team to concentrate on the Premiership and aim to improve if not match their 12th place finish they achieved last season, after a 6 years absence from the top-tier. Therefore very dangerous opponents today for United in a one-off match, a team not to be taken lightly with not only points on the board at stake and fought over, but also as with all football clubs the financial rewards in maximizing the points tally, league place finish.

Norwich appear to have a similar blueprint to Swansea City in a steady planned approach in their business plan. Mirroring the South Wales club along with Reading and indeed Queens Park Rangers. Norwich are curtailed in being relatively new to the Premiership and whether to stick or twist in ground expansion to compete toe-to-toe with the Leagues big hitters in reaching for increased seating capacity. It’s a rock and a hard place for Norwich along with several others in stadium investment at the expense of team improvements.

The sold-out signs, go up at Carrow Road when 27, 300 supporters have bought their seat, a quandary for the Norwich City board to evaluate.

Norwich have a 8 point significant daylight window, between them and the clubs fighting to drop through the relegation trapdoor, however in the immediate future they will have a key role to play in the teams that will ultimately fall by the wayside in Premiership survival. They face off against Southampton (H) Sunderland (A) Wigan (A) Reading (H) and ironically Aston Villa in their 3rd last fixture of the season at Carrow Road, poetic – justice? Norwich City will have a huge impact on those teams in the perilous relegation spots, heady days indeed, in their second season back in the top flight, with little sign of the oft banana skin, second season syndrome. When reviewing the season at Norwich and looking at the big picture it would appear the Canaries are now in a dominant position in the whole journey they have picked their way through to not feature in the danger – zone in several aspects of the football club.

Norwich have only won one of their last 15 matches in the Premier league away from Carrow Road.

Taking nothing as a given game, If United can win this afternoon, regardless of whether it’s a lacklustre professional performance again, lets just hope the players can grind out the result.

Apply and pile on the pressure onto Manchester City to continue to assess their mettle in staying the course, ahead of the Citizens, Monday evening away fixture at Aston Villa, who as we know are fighting to retain their Premiership status. 15 points ahead this evening with 10 games still to be played, would be one hand on the 20th League title. Although only a fool would believe Manchester City will throw in the towel yet…not just yet.

Will we see Ryan Giggs make his 1000th senior appearance for club and country this afternoon a special, special football player. Who continues to turn it on when the big players are needed as his most recent 80th minute 20 – yard goal verified to kill the tie against Queens Park Rangers, 2-0. Eric Harrison the former chief of United’s youth set up presiding over the class of 92 glows with pride when discussing the Welsh wizard. Eric Harrison had this to share “We watched him (Ryan) playing schoolboy football for Salford Boys at Old Trafford. He would have been about 15, it was unbelievable. He was a genius. It is very rare you can identify someone at that age who you just knew was going to make it. He simply took my breath away. He had such balance.” Eric Harrison further showered recognition on Giggs who preceded the class of 92, “People have asked what I did with Ryan Giggs , not much. We did teach him how to play in a team and how to defend as well as attack and got him to concentrate on running with it in the opponent’s half, rather than his own.” Giggs at a young age displayed desire for knowledge and recognized the need to maintain his body demanded of a professional athlete. Eric Harrison added: “He wanted to play for the first team, he wouldn’t let anything get in the way of that. I still feel an immense amount of pride when I see him play.”

From a debut as a substitute against Everton in March 1991, Ryan Giggs 1,000…not out. Giggs was rewarded for his magnificent efforts during 23 loyal years service in extending his contract by one year on Friday the 1st of March 2013.

The football club were unbeaten during February, in five exciting matches including a riveting must watch draw at the Santiago Bernabeu. Brilliant and totally United who have kept the Champions League Trophy dream alive and thrillingly possible.

United have netted two goals 21 times in the last 26 Premier League fixtures. Recording 10 wins back to back at Old Trafford in the Premier League.

Players of the month were David De Gea our fantastic 22yrs young Spanish International No1 stopper.Keeping a clean sheet in the last three Premier League matches.

Rafael da Silva who is blossoming into a world class right back, with his marauding attacking forward play with disciplined mature defensive performances as the Brazilian develops his trade at United. A right back that any team in the world would want in their side, regardless of confusion over Fabio’s football boots.

Loyal club servants Rio Ferdinand and United’s rock – fast Serbian blocker Nemanja Vidic feature in the February player of the month awards, which is highly merited. As Tony Strudwick and the management team nurse Vidic back into full fitness, easing Nemanja back with planned game-time after his lengthy layoff suffered over one – year ago. The loss of the big central defensive stalwart most certainly compromised United’s challenge last season along with numerous other significant injuries to the squad.

Michael Carrick the oft understated humble unsung conductor of the games tempo, being appreciated not only in song by the United away fans, but in the months awards also. A fine tribute for the type of player that all football clubs need, the unsung heroes. Carrick as you would expect deflected the praise he received in the direction of United legend Paul Scholes in the twilight of his fantastic career at United. The togetherness of the squad shines brightly as the team aim on three fronts to repair the damage incurred last season. Following the lead of the boss after last season’s pain when he told us ” That was not good enough.” The manager comes out fighting for the club along with our player’s, as you would expect from the boss and our great squad.

The United squad
Is there something seriously wrong with United’s squad that we don’t trust, having got the club within reach of three trophies, that in some peoples eyes demands major surgery. Many not United sites continue this relentless attention seeking nonsense with regard to inward transfers although many linked players are often laughable in their prosperous nature. As the boss stated “If I signed every player the ‘media’ linked to the club I would have hundred’s of players at the football club.”

One quick look at the calender displays the 2nd of March 2013. The summer transfer window opens formally in England on the 1st of July through to the 31st of August, 4 calender months in the future.

United don’t publicize their intended transfer signings or indeed departures from the football club. The squad is in great shape (arguably the best in the Premiership) and are ready willing to perform at their best for us fans, why can we not see this fact. Delay transfer speculation till at least the players we have at the club have completed the campaign.

One would hope many of the United players do not read the ‘media’ linking them away from the club, a real morale boost for the players in the final thrust for silverware. As Sir Matt Busby advised Alex Ferguson when under media pressure in his early tenure at United “Why bother reading them ?”

Only 7 clubs have been constant in the Premier League since it’s inception in season 1992-93, United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspurs, Aston Villa and Everton. This is also the order of the club’s success at this milestone. This weekend they all will make their 800th appearance in the top – flight. A striking achievement for all the football clubs, not least for Manchester United having won 522 games, drawing 165 and suffering a loss 112 times in the 799 league games played prior today. A United win today would just put the icing on the cake superbly.

As ever our manager will be balanced in his approach and be firmly focused on this afternoons dangerous competitor Norwich City. To think anything else is not only disrespectful to our visitors at Old Trafford but also the other teams in their league battles, to set up under strength. After last season’s pain, to take our eye off todays match would be extreme folly with the 20th League title firmly on the clubs most wanted list… and so, so close. Expect changes and rotation as the boss will utilize the squad to continue to harness and grow competition for starting places with several ‘other’ tasty duels on the horizon.

While the manager and his assistant Mike Phelan were at the Camp Nou on Tuesday past to observe the El Clasico and Real Madrid’s sterling performance against the Catalans, this adds spice to the drama of the forthcoming tie this week. Simply a reconnaissance scouting of the Los Blancos, as a complete side. The boss will have been impressed, but that does not alter the fact Real Madrid’s away form most certainly in La Liga is not waterproof, infact it could be described as porous in defence. Madrid are not invincible even after their strong performance against Barcelona their best win at the Camp Nou in more than 10 years, one swallow does not a summer make. If Sevilla, Getaffe, Real Betis, Malaga and Granada can beat Real Madrid away from the Santiago Bernabeu, and Manchester City register a draw at the Etihad. There is no doubt Manchester United can step – up and send them home to think again in a one off game.

Madrid will be extremely cautious of United and also will be rotating their squad with one eye on our match today against Norwich. While United will watch with more than a casual interest Real’s performance and team selection as they play out another El Clasico simultaneously with our must win game against Norwich.

First things first, silence the Canaries.

Match Prediction: United 3 Norwich 1.